Expanding Kmart’s cloud training program to non-technical staff has helped speed up decision making during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the group’s chief technology officer.

Last year Kmart committed to training 100 per cent of its IT team and 80 per cent of its non-technical head office employees in Amazon Web Services. 

Michael Fagan, Chief Technology Officer for Kmart Group, said employees don’t need technical knowledge or capability to build these new skills.

As well as the entire IT team, Kmart Group’s help desk staff are all certified on AWS to varying levels. Staff in marketing, property and finance have also been certified as well as the line manager of a Darwin store who is using the newfound skills to evaluate the transport mechanisms for moving goods from stores in the southern states to the top end.

“Our group managing director is certified on AWS which is a pretty powerful ally when you have the CEO of the company who is certified in cloud technology,” Fagan said. 

The training program has helped overcome the language barriers that often exist between IT and the business, which ultimately helps get to decisions faster. 

“Having our partners in marketing, in sourcing, in buying and in stores, have an understanding of technology and how it works, helps them to understand what we do, and have empathy for what we do,” Fagan said. 

“Having a team educated specifically on cloud technology we’ve actually found that it’s easier to have quick conversations and we’re not explaining the same things over and over again.” 

“So really it’s about the speed of decision making, which I think we’ve probably seen a huge increase in speed and decision making with the pandemic.”

Fagan said the new cloud skills have helped improve the management of stock both online and instore in “a particularly challenging environment over the last eight or nine weeks.”

Among the IT department, universal cloud training has changed the mindset of the team. For example, Kmart is planning on migrating its mainframe applications to the cloud. 

“So, for example, this weekend actually we’re planning on migrating our mainframe into AWS, which is the holy grail of infrastructure projects and notoriously difficult to do, but when you have 100 per cent of your team certified and everybody understands  the benefits and goals of what we’re trying to do, then they’re all there cheering from the sidelines for the team to be successful.” 

Fagan also noted that cloud technology is an enabler to help improve customer experience and help keep prices low. 

“We always put our customers first, and what they are telling us is that they want improved experiences and better services at lower costs. So for us to remain at the forefront of technology innovation in retail, therefore, it’s important that we provide our employees with the skills to innovate in cloud and machine learning, so that we can deliver faster technologies for our end customers.”

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